For Christmas my housemate Shaun bought me a really useful gift: a tea infuser from T2, the popular and shiny tea retailer that seems to have popped up in quite a few places lately. As someone who has taken to drinking loose leaf tea in the last few years, I've had a couple of pretty ordinary infusers including the one I bought at the same store less than a year ago. From browsing the website it seems like they've replaced my old one with this new product, the 'Merry Tea Infuser'. It is so much better than my previous infuser in so many ways that I wanted to write about it. So in spite of my intense, burning hatred of tacky list-style blog posts, I'm writing a somewhat tacky list-style post. Here are five reasons that my new infuser is way better than my old infuser.
1. Rigid construction
The previous infuser was essentially a small mesh basket attached to a metal ring. Two little handles attached to the ring that sat the infuser on the lip of the mug. The new infuser has a rigid stainless steel construction with silicone seals on the lid and the handles. This new construction is a massive improvement in a number of ways. Firstly, I fail to see how this infuser could possibly break or wear out, ever. The flexible mesh that is used on the old one does an admirable job for a while think about what you are putting these things through: you are regularly pouring boiling water on them and sitting them in there for a few minutes at a time. The mesh just can't hold its shape under this sort of pressure and eventually warps into a weird shape. From that point it is only a matter of time before the mesh starts to peel away from the top ring of the infuser or the holes in the mesh get wider because they are mis-shapen and let more tea leaves fall into the mug. This is a problem.
The other advantage of the construction is that it makes the infuser easier to clean. When I decide to get up from my desk to clean my infuser, mug and teaspoon I will first tap the contents of the infuser into the bin before running it under the tap to wash out the last few stubborn tea leaves. This now takes a fraction of the time it used to; it might even be half as long. The mesh one took more tapping, more rinsing and more drying. This might seem like something small, but I'm doing this almost every day just as I'm about to leave work. Small things like this that regularly save you time and effort make a difference.
2. Flat Bottom
The Merry Tea Infuser has a perfectly flat bottom side. This could be considered as relating to the point I just made about the rigid construction, but I don't think that they necessarily preclude one another. The flat bottom makes a difference because the infuser sits up stable and neat when not in use. The old one wanted to roll around or lie down, which was frustrating. But the real boon of the flat under side relates to point number three.
The Merry Tea Infuser has a cool looking lid with a silicone lining. At first I didn't understand what the point of the lid was, and in my opinion the one advantage of the lid they mention on the website isn't even the best thing about it. From the T2 Merry Tea Infuser product page:
...and the cute lid helps the infuser to sit up out of your cup.
That is true, I suppose. If you overfill or wobble the mug around too much when the leaves and hot water are going about their work, you might spill some over into the mug. I'm sure it's also possible that the lid helps keep the water temperature from dropping as quickly during brewing, particularly in and around the leaves. But the lid really comes into its own when it comes time to take the infuser out of the mug: you can take it off and put the infuser into the lid to prevent slopping the last few drops across your table, bench or desk. With the previous infuser I was dropping it into a bowl, which stopped it from wobbling around on my desk and caught the last drops of hot water, but that meant cleaning another bowl as well as the mug, infuser and spoon. Now I just rinse this little lid and that's it, clean. Done. Awesome.
4. Finer mesh
Whilst I cannot objectively prove this, I feel as though the stainless steel mesh is finer than the previous infuser's flexible mesh. The website does claim that the stainless steel is effective in 'eliminating those pesky pieces of leaf in your cup.' Having a few little leaves in your cup is no big deal: it's part of the trade-off of using loose leaf tea, which tastes noticeably better to me than tea bags. But it seems that this one is doing a slightly better job at keeping those leaves out of my mug and will continue to perform well going forward because of the stainless steel construction.
5. Better Aesthetics
It also just looks better to me. It looks more like a complete thing rather than a part of something else. It comes in a couple of colours; I have the orange one. The colours make it seem more fun and whimsical, like it has more personality. I'll probably end up getting a black one to match my black mug at work at some point (because I'm like that) and bring this one back for home duties, though.
A broader point for those persistent and loyal readers who made it through to this conclusion:
It appears to me that T2 replaced my old infuser with this new line of Merry Tea Infusers. If this is correct, they have made a very good decision. I can't think of one way in which this new infuser is not substantially better than my old one. I suppose it is a little bit more expensive, but I think that it's worth the extra eight bucks simply for the fact that it will last longer than the previous model and that the experience of using the new one is nicer.
Many things we use every day either get better very slowly or never get better at all. We're used to our phones, TVs and computers getting way better each time we upgrade them but this isn't necessarily the case with less technological items. But design matters in everything. Whether or not the people who designed the new infuser meant for all these things to be better for my use case or not, they designed a better object in a general sense. Each time I make myself a cup of tea I get a series of small benefits because of these decisions. So thanks to Shaun for picking a great gift and thanks to those designers for being good at their jobs.